There’s a degree of excitement being generated on Twitter by people who really should know better (see https://twitter.com/jolyonmaugham/status/1554160249766137858) along the lines of:
“A small consulting firm in Cornwall, with assets of only £350k, which seems to specialise on education, has just been awarded a £70bn gov’t contract to deliver the entire UK public sector’s transition to net zero.”
I understand the reaction and the true story is worth thinking about but very different and more complex — and on the face of it, these tweets are just plain wrong.
It’s a framework with a theoretical upper cap of £70bn, which would be passed through to providers (less a cut). It is dodgy (IMO, but not anything approach illegal as far as I can see), but not like that!
It actually shows how there’s a recursive reductio ad absurdum of procurement law going on, via single supplier UK-wide frameworks let by obscure bodies.
There are several layers of protection of good process in frameworks:
– OJEU-equivalent open competition (but who actually saw the tender, who competed?)
– mini-competitions within the framework (but this is sole supplier, and the *vast* proportion of awards through frameworks are now direct awards)
– constraints/requirements on pricing and quality (if they have been set up at contract award; some are fixed but some are flexible)
– commercial incentives on framework providers to sell the value and quality and range of what they can provide access to (customers still have to actively *choose* to use them — unless as with e.g. Civil Service Learning they are exclusive single supplier frameworks)
But fundamentally there is a lack — in my opinion — of scrutiny and due process in these single supplier UK-wide frameworks, unless rigorously set out in the original contract, and policed.
To be clear, at RedQuadrant we work through several sole supplier UK-wide frameworks. And I possibly wouldn’t mind being the contract holder of one either 😉
But I do think this area as it is developing needs a look at and some kinds of further controls to be considered.
see the discussion https://twitter.com/antlerboy/status/1554349391644921856
[edited to add – in theory, when any public service buys from one of these cross-UK frameworks, they still have to do so within their own internal spending controls, considering propriety and value; even though the framework has already gone through the legal process and is thus legally able to be ‘bought’ by the client, they still have to think about their choice to buy, or not]